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McLellan: Facebook rethinks its algorithm


Over the past few days, marketing people and pundits of all kinds have been trying to read between the lines of a post by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg  about how the social media giant will try to become “more friendly” again.

His Jan. 12 post said, in part: “Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do — help us connect with each other. We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being.”

The translation of that is Facebook is changing its algorithm, and we will begin to see less content from companies, brands and news publishers in our news feed and more content from our family and friends. On a personal level, that probably doesn’t sound horrible. But if you’re using Facebook to promote your business, you might be having a different reaction.

It’s important to note that this is probably more about the fake news sites than it is about your local business. But if you’ve been working hard to get your customers and prospects to like your Facebook business page, this may have you worried.

While the hubbub is new, the shift actually isn’t. For the past couple of years, you’ve probably noticed that if you really want a large percentage of your page’s fans to actually see the content you post, you need to boost the post. Back in 2015, Facebook realized that member engagement was dropping as our news feeds were filling with promotional messages and branded page content. As of 2017, less than 1 percent of your content was shown organically without any sort of boost.

Now, paying money isn’t the only boost available. When people engage with your content (liking, sharing or commenting on it), that provides a natural boost. They have told Facebook by their interaction that they like your content, and so Facebook will organically serve it up to them.

This, of course, means that you need to focus on posting things that people actually care about and will interact with if you want your content to be seen without paying for the privilege. That hasn’t changed.

Be relevant. Be helpful. Be responsive. Those are the core tenets of any social media presence, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or any of the other myriad possible channels.

If I were a betting man (and I’m really not), I’d guess that Facebook advertising is about to get more expensive. With that additional investment, the odds of your target audience seeing the post or ad will also increase, but it will eliminate many of the advertisers who don’t have the budget for the increased costs.

I would also guess that the new algorithm will watch for and reward brands (and maybe even people who post personally) that get people interacting, as opposed to just skimming the content.

People who care about your business page and the information that you share will still be able to do so. The key will be making sure you provide value with every post. The options under the news feed tab on Facebook will allow users to prioritize the pages and personal friends whose posts they are most interested in. Facebook will also prioritize the content that your friends interact with, assuming you have shared interests.

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